Future of Marketing Research is Mobile Says Geri-Robert

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Mrs. Ugo Geri-Robert, Managing Director of Millward Brown Nigeria, a global marketing research agency tells Kasie  Abone  in this interview that mobile will drive the future of marketing research. Excerpts:

How would you describe the future of marketing research in emerging markets like Nigeria?

Truly, Nigeria is one of the emerging markets. The future of research whether in the emerging markets or developed markets is mobile. It is mobile because mobile takes off all the human errors. I give you an example, before now, data collection was all pen and paper from there we arrived at the computer assisted interview system where we use all kinds of devices just to capture the same information that we used to write. Now we are talking of the future of research and I say it is mobile, mobile is actually a wall breaker. I call it a wall breaker because one of the challenges facing marketing research in emerging markets like Nigeria is that sometimes the walls become barriers in getting to the target samples and of course the right kind of information. Mobile will scale through the wall.

After the first quarter of 2016, how did marketing research fare in Nigeria and can you project what this year holds for the industry viz-a-viz the Nigerian economy?

Yes first quarter has gone and I can tell you honestly that the first quarter was a bit slow, slower than usual. But I can tell you that in most of the global agencies operating in Nigeria like ours, I think we still met the numbers. Slow or not slow, we still arrived at where we wanted to arrive at. Looking at Nigeria specifically, yes we know that Nigeria is challenged right now but then when you talk about market research, you know you are talking about providing solutions to challenges. We are challenged right now but I believe that once we put all the policies in place, the market will open up. Don’t forget that with all these challenges, we are still number one economy in Africa and we will not lose sight of the fact that we have the population, the market is here.

 You said the future of marketing research is mobile, how do we adapt this mobile technology?

The way the mobile work is that we have a panel which we are building day by day. When we have a new job, instead of sending people out to go and be roaming the streets or to go and be knocking at the gates, by the way, the panel we have is not a general panel, it is segmented-socio-economic class, gender, age group, education, location and so on. So when we have a research job, we look at the sample and we select from our panel and we send them the questions to their mobile phones. Like I said it is a wall breaker, there are no barriers when it comes to mobile unlike the face to face interview and you are reaching the real targets.

What are the short comings of this mobile method?

There are short-comings. As you know everything made by man has its short-comings. I churn out these things; the response rate is lower than when you are doing face to face. When we are doing face to face interview I set a target for myself, I say this person is going here, that person is going there, I can share the questions five each, with five persons, in a day I am looking at 25. But then for the mobile, you send these things, there is no way you can be sure that they will come back or that the people you sent to have received them. Because they don’t owe you anything, they are not obliged to respond, so you are just left at their whims and caprices waiting for them to respond and for now response rate is still quite low.

What is the patronage of marketing research in Nigeria like?

The telecommunication companies are the ones doing so much use of our services. Our colleagues in South Africa when we get talking they tell us that around September or October, they stop taking jobs, they start turning clients back. We usually wonder when we will arrive there. Truly, the telecom companies have done a lot for research companies in Nigeria because they are all heavy research users. If we have the banking sector, the insurance sector doing just 20 per cent of what the telecom companies are doing, this industry will explode, talents will be built and more people will come into the research industry. Right now I don’t know if the financial services sector is doing even up to two per cent of what the telecom companies are doing. We know that in other markets, the financial services industry use heavy research, but here, we just move from the board room to the market. That explains why most of the products churned out by many of our banks fail. You see, let me tell you, that era of just throwing things at the people and expecting that they will take it is gone. Our people are getting more sophisticated, they know they have the power, they know what they want and they go for it.

What is the size of the research market in Nigeria?

That is a difficult question to answer because it is not a public domain thing, we are all guessing. When you look at yourself you say, you are number one in the market and we look at what we are making, we project. So specifically for the Nigerian market. I am not too sure but we are grossing over $50 million annually.

What percentage of the market is Millward Brown holding in Nigeria?

We are at the fore front; I can tell you that we are truly at the front. Mobile is still very small but by the time you begin to put company to company, our own percentage is the highest for now.